PDT Staff Writer
Former Portsmouth City Council President and Fifth Ward Councilman John Haas was appointed Portsmouth city solicitor at Monday night’s meeting of the Portsmouth City Council.
On Friday, Haas resigned as president of council and fifth ward councilman an applied to fill the unexpired term of current Portsmouth City Solicitor Mike Jones.
Jones has submitted his letter of resignation as solicitor to take effect at the end of the year. He has been hired by newly-elected Scioto County Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Judge Jerry Buckler.
Haas was one of three local attorneys to apply for the solicitor job, Gene Meadows and Steve Rodeheffer had also applied.
According to acting Portsmouth City Council President Rich Saddler, Haas was hired because of his experience with council.
“In my opinion, and no offense to the other candidates, but I think John is a little bit more familiar with the happenings of council and what we’ve done over the last few years. I think that will be beneficial in the fiscal issues we are facing right now,” Saddler said.
Haas called the interview process interesting.
“I’ve been dealing with these guys for several years during my time on council. They know me and we talked about the difference between my job as solicitor versus being on council or council president,” Haas said. “On council you’re making policy and as the city solicitor your not making policy, your trying to help them (city council) do it legally. I indicated to them my belief that I’m not going to get involved in policy issues. I’m not going to push anything. I will help them (city council) in any way I can.”
Haas said the reason he resigned from council and applied for the solicitor job was due to the opinion of the Ohio Ethics Commission.
“I could not find any ethics options on, if I needed to resign or not before I applied. So, I contacted the Ohio Ethics Commission and after much debate they informed me they thought it would be better if I resigned,” Haas said.
As a result of being appointed the next city solicitor, Haas said he plans to scale his private law practice back so he can focus on this new responsibilities.
Haas said as city solicitor he hopes to continue some of the ongoing work of the office.
“As city solicitor, I hope to carry on some of the work that’s been going on. One of the things I would like to focus on, that I indicated to the council members, was working with the county prosecutor’s office in dealing with some of the criminal issues and work to streamline that process as much as possible, to save both the county and the city some money and time,” Haas said. “I also want to make sure when there is the ability to do it, defendants are charged with a city ordinance violation as opposed to state. So, the city gets the fine money.”
Haas said he as given some thought as to how his office might look.
“I have not made any decisions. I think the people Mike (Jones) had are qualified to do their positions and they are good people,” Haas said.
Haas will serve out the remainder of Jones current term through 2014 and will run for his own term after that.
Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 228, or firstname.lastname@example.org.